Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 20, 2003
The Gospel: Mark 6:30-44
Sermon: "The Steadfast Compassion of Jesus"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." When they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
The Steadfast Compassion of Jesus
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost - July 20, 2003
Today, we are preparing to send a group of people from St. Thomas' on a mission trip. These youth and adults are going to help people have a decent place to stay and lay their heads. They have decided to step out in faith and help someone they do not know while staying somewhere unfamiliar. They really are stepping out in faith because they do not know exactly what lies ahead.
Even though they may be stepping out in faith in God, there still may be some fear and trepidation. After all, they do not know moment for moment what will happen. They do not know who they will meet. They do not know what they will encounter on the job site or for that matter while playing on the beach. Having faith does not mean we have all the answers. In fact having faith means we actually might have more questions.
Last week we read about the disciples going on their first missionary journey. They were told what to take and what not to take. They couldn't take anything extra, no extra clothes or shoes. They could not take any money or food. Can we imagine what their questions might have been? One thing is for sure they did not have all the answers either.
Now we read about the disciples returning from their first missionary journey. When they returned they gathered around Jesus and shared with him their experiences. They shared the wonders of the journey. Incredible things happened to them on the journey. They were amazed at the results of the teaching and the healing. Today, we know something they didn't. Jesus knew they were going to have incredible experiences. Jesus was with them every step of the way. They did not know it. Jesus knew some other things they did not know. Jesus knew they were going to be excited, awestruck and amazed. Jesus also knew they were going to be tired.
So, he tried to get them away to a place where they could rest and reflect on their experiences with him. But people saw them retiring and guessed where they were heading. They beat Jesus and the disciples to the spot. What were Jesus' options here?
First, Jesus could have told the people to go away. He wanted private time with his disciples. They needed time to reflect and relax. They were going to have some closed time away from everybody.
Secondly, Jesus could have said nothing. He could have tried taking the disciples somewhere else. The crowd of people would be left alone.
His third option was to stay and be with God's people. He could teach them and feed them, even though he and the disciples were already tired and hungry themselves. Jesus stayed because he had compassion for them. He knew they needed the presence of God. Jesus did not turn away from the disciples even as he ministered to the crowd. He taught them as well. Through the feeding of this crowd he taught them the abundance of God's grace.
Today, we can take great comfort in this lesson as we prepare to leave on our trip. First, we know Jesus will be with us on this trip. He has already prepared the way. Everything we need to go is ready. Secondly, Jesus knows what we will encounter on our journey. He promises to be with us every step of the way. He also knows we will see wonderful and marvelous things on the journey. We will have stories to share with his other disciples when we return. Next week we will have an opportunity to share those stories with the disciples at next Sunday’s services. Everyone is invited to come and hear the stories. Finally, Jesus knows we will have questions. Jesus is not scared of our questions. In fact, Jesus wants us to ask them because then the questions can be addressed as we are ready to learn.
Jesus will be with us on the journey. He will wait for us until we return. He will teach us. He will feed us. He will love us. As we leave on this journey today, we can take great comfort in knowing our God is always with us.